Could there have been anything more fun for the Flyers than being party poopers at Sidney Crosby’s big career goal No. 500 celebration?
It started off as one big barrel of laughs on Tuesday night at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh when the Flyers fell behind on Crosby’s milestone goal, then scored three straight goals to take a 4-2 lead.
Pittsburgh, however, rallied for a pair of third period goals, then got an OT goal from Kris Letang off a two on one at the 31-second mark for a 5-4 defeat of the Flyers.
The Penguins scored goals just 18 seconds apart to erase the Flyers’ two-goal lead in the third period. Jack Guentzel scored at 12:36 on a power play after Isaac Ratcliffe was whistled for a delay of game penalty, then Chad Ruhwedal connected from close range for the equalizer.
Interim head coach Mike Yeo thought his team put up a good fight, even though Pittsburgh scored the last three goals of the game.
“It’s easy to sit there and feel sorry for yourself,’’ said Yeo on a media Zoom call. “I think they’re still going out there and fighting, playing hard. Obviously that’s a very good team we were playing against tonight. I think we came out with the right attitude. We came out with the mindset that we wanted to take the fight to them. We have to find a way to close those games out. We can’t be satisfied with one point, we can’t be satisfied with mostly good efforts.’’
Nick Seeler’s goal, his first as a Flyer, broke a 2-2 tie at 10:43 of the second.
The second period surge began with a goal from Scott Laughton, who connected at the 57-second mark. His shot eluded goaltender Casey DeSmith, extending Laughton’s point-scoring streak to a career high-tying six games. Laughton has scored in three straight games, also tying a career high.
Seeler fired a long shot home, then Justin Braun finished off a scramble which ensued after a Laughton breakaway was stopped by DeSmith at 17:09.
Crosby sent the hometown crowd into a frenzy with a power-play goal at 16:34 of the first period. Stationed just to the left of goaltender Carter Hart, Crosby completed a sequence with longtime teammate Geno Malkin.
No. 87 becomes the 46th alltime NHL player to hit the 500 mark. It was also his 50th career goal against the Flyers. Only another Pittsburgh superstar, Mario Lemieux, has more with 51.
Claude Giroux opened the scoring at 13:47, working a give-and-go with linemate Cam Atkinson. That was countered by Pittsburgh’s Dominik Simon just 22 seconds later.
The Flyers’ second period might have been one of their best of the season.
“We did some good things out there,’’ Laughton said. “Like I said last game, you keep building on that and trying to string together a couple.’’
Laughton is playing some of his best hockey, part of it out of necessity with Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes sidelined by injury. Laughton’’ 10 goals are just three off his career high.
“With the opportunity that’s presenting itself in the last month or two (I’m) getting power-play touches,’’ Laughton said. “Just being able to touch the puck a little bit more, I think it helps everyone’s game.’’
>Praise for Crosby
No doubt Crosby will go down as one of the greatest players in NHL history. Yeo was an assistant coach on the Penguins when they won the Stanley Cup in 2009. He knows how good Crosby is from watching up close.
“I wish he did it (score No. 500) against somebody else,’’ Yeo said. “Knowing him the way that I do. . .it’s hard to sit here and say I’m happy for him, he’s an incredible player, I’m grateful I had the chance to coach him.’’
Seeler got a firsthand look at how good Crosby can be.
“He’s a heck of a player,’’ Seeler said. “Congratulations to him. But it’s tough when it’s against you.’’
Added Hart: “We didn’t want to him to score but kudos to him. He’s one of the best if not the best of his generation. The guy’s a really skilled player. Playing against him is a lot of fun. You want to play against the best, he’s one of the best players and you have to play hard against him every time.’’
The Flyers announced they have placed defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (undisclosed injury) on injured reserve. Kevin Connauton remained in Ristolainen’s vacated spot. . .The Flyers return to action on Thursday when they start an eight-game homestand with a rescheduled game against the Washington Capitals. The original game back in December was postponed by COVID issues. . .The Flyers’ three-goal period was their first since one against the New Jersey Devils back on Dec. 14. ..Giroux has 289 career goals, one short of tying Eric Lindros for eighth place on the Flyers’ alltime list.